Double AB is almost famous. He's been ever so close to being a household name, yet even to relatively knowledgeable hip-hop heads his name draws a blank. A battle rap veteran, Double AB has competed in the famed Blaze battle series as well as appearing in national publications and MTV on more than one occasion. Jin parlayed a few weeks of verses on BET's 106 & Park into a Ruff Ryders record deal and a successful independent career. Double AB on the other hand has had to be independent from the start. His first CD, "New York Minute" didn't even register a blip on the hip-hop scene, underground or commercial. "The Diesel" is his second full length and follows a mixtape hosted by Scram Jones. Chock full of heavy guest appearances, it sure looks like Double AB is trying his best to put his name out there.
Whether Double AB actually accomplishes his goal is still up in the air, but one listen to "The Diesel" and you'll see that the music isn't the problem. Double AB isn't the next incarnation of Rakim, but as far as battle emcees go he makes the transition to full songs pretty well. "Mr. Belvedere" is a tongue in cheek metaphor for the fact that Double AB "serves" you with rhymes and weed – the drug talk sounds a bit forced, but overall it's a good listen. "Neighbors" shows more versatility as AB vividly describes life in his apartment building and the different characters he encounters. "Take Me Away" gives us the first big guest star in the form of Cormega and this is where Double AB's weaknesses first start to show. Lyrically the man is on point with his and doesn't give us straight up battle raps on every verse (the problem many battle rappers encounter), but at the same time his voice lacks the emotion and maturity that his peers show. The disparity doesn't get more apparent than on "Save My Soul" where he trades verses with Nature:
"The Crypt Keeper and his evil laugh
Keep haunting my nightmares, wish I could flee the past
But the Grim Reaper's feet are fast
He must be wearing Air Max under that sheet of black
So if he leads me back to the cemetery to rot
Just make sure to plant pot in my burial plot
Couple Dutches and my old school stereo box
Ghetto-blaster, that's square like a cereal box"
"Fast asleep when the pastor preached
About the devil in this day where we ask for sweets
And wear masks of all the famous people that's deceased
Degrading, forgetting the ones that never made it
In the streets they laid in, blood gets soaked in
The thugs stay soaking, wound stay open
For years the tear drops have built up
Dire been thrown when the casket's sealed up
Babies being born at the very same time
As a man dies, all fair in God's eyes"
There's plenty of care put into Double AB's lyrics, but his voice lacks the emotion needed for such a somber track and the corny metaphors ("square like a cereal box") don't go well with the subject matter. Nature on the other hand shows his veteran skills and savvy by keeping it simple and direct. Double AB is far from wack, but the refinement needed in his voice is something that will only come with time. His voice remains unchanged on tracks like "Maxine" and "Dedication" though one track pays homage to a car, while the other is a very serious heartfelt tribute to a loved one.
Overall, "The Diesel" is a solid effort for Double AB. Like most battle rappers making the transition (Canibus, Chino Xl, etc..) there are things left to be desired, but given the varied topics Double AB covers he is definitely heading in the right direction. The production, supplied mostly by Dub Sonata, is smooth, soulful east-coast styled production inspired by the golden era boom bap. There are one or two duds to be found in the mix ("Cuban Cigars" being the most glaring example), but the rest of the songs supply plenty of witty wordplay to keep you entertained. For fans of battle influenced street-hop, "The Diesel" will suit your needs well. Even if that isn't your flavor, you'd be smart to keep the man in your radar as he should only get better as time goes by.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: September 16, 2008